After Ranthambhore and Sariska, Rajasthan will now be home to a third big cat habitat-the Mukundara Hills Tiger Reserve.

The new tiger reserve, located chiefly in Rajasthan's Hadoti region, was notified by the state government on Thursday.

The Mukundara Hills Tiger Reserve will be spread across four districts-Kota, Bundi, Chittorgarh and Jhalawar-covering an area of 759 sq km. It will boast of a core area of 417 sq km and a buffer zone covering 342.82 sq km.

The reserve, expected to ease the big cat population pressure in Ranthambhore, will cover the existing Darrah, Jawahar Sagar and Chambal wildlife sanctuaries.

Currently, the Ranthambhore tiger reserve is home to 50 tigers while Sariska tiger reserve has nine big cats.

State governments are authorised, on the recommendations of the National Tiger Conservation Authority, to notify an area as a tiger reserve under section 38 V of theWildlife Protection Act, 1972.

Earlier last month, union minister of environment and forests Jayanti Natarajan had informed the Lok Sabha that the NTCA had given in-principle approval to five new tiger reserves-Pilibhit (Uttar Pradesh), Ratapani (Madhya Pradesh), Sunabeda (Odisha), Mukundara Hills (Rajasthan) and Satyamangalam (Tamil Nadu)

The Mukundara Hills Tiger Reserve currently does not have a tiger population of its own but serves as a natural extension to the Ranthambhore tiger reserve and big cats from the state's premier reserve often stray into the MHTR area for breeding.

The NTCA already recognises the MHTR as an extension of the core area of the Ranthambhore tiger reserve.

“We started working on it 10 years ago when I was the forest minister in the previous Congress government in Rajasthan,” state forest minister Bina Kak told The Hindu.

AICC chairperson Sonia Gandhi, along with Ms. Kak, had then done an aerial tour of the sanctuary.

The government had issued a preliminary notification naming the reserve “Rajiv Gandhi National Park”.

However, before it could issue a final notification, the code of conduct was imposed in view of the 2003 assembly elections.

Following the elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power and changed the name of the national park to Mukundara Hills.

“Once the Ranthambhore and Karauli tiger corridors are joined, this tiger reserve will be one of the largest in the country covering an area of over 1300 sq km,” said Ms. Kak.